Mind the gap
Maybe you took a crack at consulting after you were ‘down-sized’ out of your last company. Or maybe you went back to school and waited tables part-time to get you through. Maybe you took time off to have a baby or care for an elderly parent. The fact is that there are any number of legitimate reasons why someone would have gaps in their employment history. However, recruiters may not see it this plainly, and that can be a problem for you as a job seeker. You will need to be careful how you present yourself in your resume; you do not want to omit dates, nor misrepresent them, but by the same token you do not want to divulge any information that may affect you negatively. Here are some tips in how to best walk that fine line:
- Use a Functional resume- This is one of the few times where it is infinitely preferable to a chronological resume. You will want to break-out your resume in the following order;
- Summary of Qualifications- This is four or five sentences that will WOW the recruiter by summarizing your skills, expertise and effectiveness.
- Skills & Accomplishments- This section could also be titled ‘Areas of Strength’. Here we recommend that you create three or four categories of skill sets, and then include three or four bullet points under each outlining an example of that skill set. For example; one category could be ‘Customer Relations’ and your bullet points may be about a ‘vendor scorecard’ process you created and deployed, or that you had the highest rating in our division for Customer Retention or that you instituted a Customer Referral incentive that resulted in an increase of 35% in gross receipts. You get the picture.
- Employment History- This is your work history. Keep this section simple; you are trying to downplay your gaps in employment. Do not leave out or exaggerate your dates of employment- that will just call more attention to this section.
- Education- If you have earned a degree, say so. If you have not, put the years you attended and say how many credits you’ve earned “towards a degree in ____”. Be specific about your goal and don’t be embarrassed; many people take years to finish school because they’re doing it while working full time.
- Less information is better- If you have been out of work due to a disability, illness, handicap or emotional issues. Do not include this type of information in your resume; It is illegal for employers to ask questions about this directly, so you should not volunteer it. You will need to rehearse your answers to questions about your employment gap, which they may legally ask and most certainly will.
- Clarify with your cover letter- The cover letter is your opportunity to present your objectives, your expertise and your professionalism. Your resume is a dry listing of your history that does not speak to your personality or your attitude. Use a cover letter to further explain your gaps, if you feel you must, and to reiterate what a benefit your experience would be to their company.